The first time I read this book, I was in my early twenties and on a three week European trip with my friend Maria. The book blew me away; I had never read anything quite like it before. I had read it again the summer after that trip, and then…. well, it has been nearly twenty years.
I had let some friend borrow my copy years ago. I don’t remember when I did that and I have no idea who I gave the book to. I only know that I never got it back. And in the past year or so, I have really wanted to read it again. But a book like this – I needed to have my own copy. A library book just would not do. So this year, a friend in the “blogger book swap” that I’m a part of actually gifted me a new copy of this book for our Holiday Swap! I was blown away! And then I sat down to read it, and make this copy mine.
For as much as I have loved this book for all these years, I barely remembered any of the specific details. That kind of threw me a bit. I remembered the premise: a dystopian society in which women are stripped of all rights, and a certain group of fertile woman (including the protagonist Offred) is used primarily for breeding purposes by the white male elite class. I remembered that Offred often remembered her own daughter, ripped from her and given to one of the elite childless couples and her husband Luke, whose fate she did not know at all. I had forgotten the birth scene of one of the other Handmaid’s, and the secret underground network of rebels. I had forgotten her lesbian friend Moira, what had happened to her and how she eventually saw her again. I forgot how her relationship with the Commander changed, as well as with other household staff. The ending is perfectly open, allowing the reader to determine Offred’s fate. Usually that bothers me, but I love it here.
This is still a wonderful book that I continue to treasure, even though the possibility of it (even in a less extreme form) scares me even more now. One thing is for sure, I will not be lending this copy out. This stays on my shelf – for the next time.
The Handmaid’s Tale
by Margaret Atwood
Anchor Books, 1998. First published 1985.